As with any character training that we do with our children, building character with gratitude begins with our example! If they hear you expressing thanks to them, or just talking about things you are grateful for, it will help them begin to develop more of a “gratitude attitude.”
Building Godly character such as gratitude in your kids also involves purposeful teaching through daily life, lessons that you teach them, and fun games of activities to help them apply it! I’m going to start with some simple ideas to help you teach your kids to develop gratitude.
7 Practical Tips for Building Character with Gratitude
Begin teaching character with gratitude to your children when they are still young
Start building character with gratitude early! As soon as they begin to talk, teach them to say thank you each time you (or someone else) give them something or give them help with something.
Replace negativity with gratitude
When they are complaining about things, help them to replace those negative thoughts with a few things that they can be grateful for. For example, if they are complaining about it raining, you could say something like “I know you don’t really like going out in the rain, but God made the rain to help things grow, and you get to wear your rain boots today!”
Teach your children how to write thank-you notes.
Make sure to always have your kids write a thank you note when someone gives them a gift or has been an encouragement to them. Writing thank-you notes used to be the normal thing to do, but it’s something that we seem to have gotten away from. Let your kids know that when they thank someone for being a blessing, they are encouraging that person and blessing them in return.
To make note writing more fun, let your kids draw a picture on the front of a paper, color it, and put stickers or stamps on it. If they don’t like handwriting, have them tell you what they want to say while you write it for them. Encourage them to write at least one thank you note a week, whether it’s for something given to them, help they’ve been given, or to someone who has invested in their life by teaching and encouraging.
Teach gratitude by saying thank you at mealtime.
Train your children to say thank you after each meal to the person who prepared it. After meals, we taught our kids to say “Thank you for the meal, Mom (or Dad). May I be excused please? We wanted them to be aware that time was spent preparing the meal, rather than just taking it for granted and expecting it without giving thanks.
Remind your kids often of how blessed they are, and all that your family has to be thankful for.
Don’t wait till Thanksgiving to do this! Make comments regularly about what God has given you – your home, family, church, food, sunshine, changing seasons, etc. For example, we should remind them to show gratitude towards Daddy for working so hard every day to take care of them. Or, when Mom stops what she is doing at home to take one of them to a special activity, remind them to say thanks. And when a sibling helps them with something or shares it with them, encourage them to say thank you to that sibling. (rather than just expect that the sibling owes that to them)
Teach your kids to be grateful in prayer
Always pray and thank God for the food He’s given you before eating meals. Ultimately gratitude comes down to recognizing that God is the one who gives us all things, so thanking Him for our meals is a great way to remind your kids of that.
Set an example of gratitude
Work regularly on your own spirit and make sure you are nurturing gratitude in your heart and setting a good example to your children. Join me for my FREE 28 Day Gratitude Challenge – Scriptures & Prayers and see if you can keep a grateful attitude for the month. (Your kids will notice!)
For some extra teaching on building character with gratitude, play this game with your kids: Gratitude Circle for Kids
- Have the children sit in a circle.
- Toss a beanbag to one of the children.
- Have him say something he is thankful for, then toss the beanbag to someone else.
- Repeat till everyone has had at least three turns to share something.
- Don’t let them repeat what someone else has shared, but encourage them to think of something that hasn’t been mentioned.
Why not try a Gratitude Craft? Thankful Wreaths
For this craft, you can either hand draw and cut out your own colorful set of leaves, or head to the craft store and pick up a package of colored foam leaves.
- Begin by having your kids assemble and glue the leaves into a circle shape to make a wreath.
- Poke a couple of holes in the top leaves, and string some raffia or a festive printed ribbon as a hanger.
- Each day get the wreath down and help your kids write down something that they are thankful for!
Our kids normally take many things for granted unless we encourage them to be thankful while building Godly character. The best gift you can give your kids is the gift of a thankful heart.